Height gain: 350 metres
Height loss: 350 metres
Melchsee-Frutt – Tannensee – Tannalp – Engstlenalp – Engstlensee and back
A more gentle walk today, after yesterday's excursion to the Sidelhorn. A friend from work has a weekend guest from Germany, and they want to do something easy but scenic. I have a ticket for a concert at four in the afternoon, and am also happy to something short and not too strenuous. This pleasant walk is part of the well-known "four lakes walk" which starts from Melchsee-Frutt and goes to Engelberg via a series of mountain lakes: Melchsee, Tannensee, Engstlensee and Trüebsee. For time and logistic reasons, we decide to amputate the last of the four lakes, and do our own "three lakes" variation. We go by car to Stöckalp, and take the cable-car up to Melchsee-Frutt, where the temperature is significantly higher than the forecast would have us believe. Our German visitor came without hiking equipment, but my friend has lent her an old pair of boots which should be more than good enough for such an easy walk.
The Melchsee is a lovely lake, provided you avoid looking at the ugly resort buildings that disfigure its northern edge. Looking towards its southern side, white cumulus clouds are reflected in the still surface of the water, with a backdrop of sombre mountains still wreathed in darker overnight clouds that have not yet cleared. A notice wards us that the path to the Tannensee has suffered from this summer's rainy weather, and that it is "sodden" and only suitable for those with good footwear. True, the path is vaguely muddy in places, but it is still among the drier surfaces on which I have walked this year!
Leaving the pylons and cables of the ski area behind, we climb gently uphill along a marshy valley where the colours already suggest that autumn is not far away, and soon come to our second lake, the Tannensee. This is an artificial lake, its western end blocked by a low, grass-covered dam, across which we walk to follow the lake's southern bank. Fishermen are standing on rocks here, enjoying their hobby in what, it has to be said, is an absolutely perfect location: what more could one wish for as a backdrop while waiting for a bite?
At the far end of the lake, we walk past the restaurant, the whitewashed chapel and the few houses at Tannalp, then begin the descent to our third lake, the Engstlensee. This is the most "mountainous" part of the route, as the path works its way down a steep rock face, using a grassy band between cliffs that rear up above and plunge down below. The way down is secured with a cable, although the path is a metre or more wide and not in any way dangerous. Down below, the lovely Gental valley runs away westwards towards the peaks of the Bernese Oberland, still shrouded in cloud but doing their best to break through.
|The path from Tannalp down to Engstlenalp|
At this point, a very odd thing happens. Those of you who read this blog regularly will remember that last weekend, one of my hiking partners lost the sole of her right boot in the middle of a hike. I had never seen this happen before: now it happens again. Our German visitor's borrowed hiking boots, which have not been worn for two years, decide to self-destruct. Not only does the sole of her right boot fall off very suddenly: ten minutes later, the same thing happens to the other boot. The only common denominator I can find in all this is my friend from the office, present on both occasions. I will have to be very careful next time we go hiking together!
With botched-up boots, we continue to Engstlenalp and its hotel. I was last here in August 2010 in horribly wet conditions; it's nice to see the place in sunlight today. As we walk up the hill towards the lake, I point out the annexe where I had my poltergeist incident while walking the Alpine Pass Route four years ago.
To get the best views of the Engstlensee would mean walking up to its far and, which we cannot be bothered to do, so we just have a quick look at its blue-green water and the pretty reflections made by the trees on the far side, before returning to the Hotel Engstlenalp for lunch. My two companions have Rösti with cheese and fried eggs respectively; I go for a "Käseschnitte mit Zwiebeln, Speck und Ei", a delicious and totally unhealthy mixture of melted cheese, ham, and onions on a bread base, baked in the oven and topped with a fried egg and picked vegetables. All washed down with beer, it goes without saying. Mmmmm…
|Looking across to the Bernese Oberland from Tannalp|
I am feeling far too happy with life by now to want to rush back for my concert, so we decide to take the rest of the afternoon slowly. This is probably a good thing, as the initial climb back up from Engstlenalp to Tannalp is quite a challenge with such full stomachs. Additional bits and pieces continue to fall off the borrowed boots, and one of the soles is discarded in a litter bin. We decide to stay on the road for the rest of the way back: at least our visitor will be walking on a dry, flat surface and will not have to contend with mud seeping in and stones breaking through the internal foam which has now become the external layer of her footwear.
|A hint of autumn|
The light is completely different now compared to this morning, with the late afternoon sun accentuating the autumnal atmosphere. We arrive back at Melchsee-Frutt at four o'clock: twenty kilometres away in Lucerne my concert is starting, but I really don't mind at all.